Non-Catholics Find Home at NDA

Colleen Mortell, Staff Writer

Notre Dame Academy is the only Catholic high school in Green Bay.  It was established in 1990 after combining three Green Bay Catholic high schools, Saint Joseph’s Academy, Abbot Pennings High School, Our Lady of Premontre High School.

Surprising to some, not all students and staff at NDA are Catholic.

Seniors Luke Davison and Joe Hardy classify themselves as Lutherans.  They both said they came to Notre Dame for the same reasons– athletics and a good education.  Davison played hockey while Hardy participated in football and track.

Even though they do not follow the same beliefs as Catholics, they said they both enjoy praying before athletic games and events.

“Lutherans don’t pray to saints, unlike Catholics.  We celebrate Lent by giving up something, but we can eat meat on Fridays,” Davison said.

Davison said that even though he is not Catholic, he has taken part in the Sacrament of reconciliation and enjoyed it.  Hardy, however, disagrees.

“As Lutherans, we do not believe in reconciliation.  If you want your sins to be forgiven, you should talk it over with God, not through a priest,” Hardy added.

Sophomore Max Roitstein is Jewish.  The deciding factor in his enrollment at Notre Dame was both of his parents and the overall learning environment.

“Prayer is what separates NDA from public schools.  Though I do not participate, I find it to be a fundamental part of our school,” Roitstein stated.

Freshman Diego Mendoza and seniors Keri Salscheider and Greg Davis said they recognize themselves as non denominational and more spiritual or free thinkers.  

Salscheider and Davis were both raised in Catholic environments, but as they grew up they realized they were not connecting with the Catholic beliefs.

“I was Catholic when I first came to Notre Dame, and then I realized I was believing what my parents taught me too.  I didn’t connect with it; however, I am not anti-Christian,” Salscheider said.

Similar to Davison and Hardy, Davis partakes in prayers everyday and before sporting events.  

Mendoza says he does not pray in the same way Catholics do, but doesn’t mind it and will not complain.

Senior Victoria Koch said she was originally going to attend Fox Valley Lutheran which has an exceptional art program, but due to money and transportation her family decided Notre Dame was the better option and still had the programs she wanted.

She, too, is not Catholic. “I think of myself as an agnostic, but lately I have found myself being drawn towards the belief of the crow or Absaalooke Indians whose belief is heavily involved in nature.  I’ve always felt nature has an immense power on humans so as a concept crow beliefs is more tailored for me,” Koch said.

She said she doesn’t mind that as Tritons, we begin all things in prayer.  

“I used to participate in prayer to ‘fit in,’ but now I’ve found a comfort in not being anything and just being myself,” Koch shared. She stands quietly and lets those who do believe do what they want.  

English teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Brown, was raised as a Southern Baptist, but now attends a non-denominational church.  She originally came to NDA because there was an opening to teach, but her perception of being Catholic has changed since she first came here.

“I think it’s beautiful that we pray before everything.  It shows who we are and where we come from,” Mrs. Brown said.

Math teacher Mr. Doug Guyette recognizes himself as a Christian.  He believes prayer enables us to pause and reflect on our place in this world.

“Events like Mass, Common Prayer, and Reconciliation add tradition to the high school experience.  They help mark the turning of the year.  Even as a non-Catholic, I have felt welcome to participate in such services as suits my own faith,” he said.

Junior Brynnan Gray is currently studying Buddhism.

“I’m not comfortable calling myself a Buddhist yet, but hopefully in a few years I will be able to,” Gray shared.

She decided to come to NDA because her dad works here and she wanted to make a change in her life.

“I like going to Mass, but parts of the Mass will go right over my head.  Other parts are very beautiful,” Gray added, “At times I would rather take that time to meditate, but this exposure to a different faith is making me a more well-rounded person as a whole.”

Konop Vending, which provides the food in the cafeteria, respects the Catholic values by not selling meat on Fridays during Lent.  This bothers Roitstein and Gray; however, they both understand that since Notre Dame is Catholic, they must respect the school’s beliefs.  Roitstein suggests that there should be other options as well.

Some non-Catholic students say that no meat on Fridays does not really affect them because they usually bring their own lunch to school.

While some students believe non-Catholics should not have to go to Mass or Common Prayer, others see it as part of the NDA experience

“We should be able to choose our own path, but I understand because it’s a Catholic school.  I value their opinion, but I don’t want it shoved down my throat,” Salscheider said.